After an act of hate, community rallies for Harrisburg synagogue. Here’s what lawmakers can do next | Thursday Morning Coffee

August 13, 2020 7:15 am

(Image via Facebook)

Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Is there any symbol that speaks to the potency of hate like the swastika? Is there any symbol that simultaneously evokes as much anger and fear when you see it?

As they headed to services on Monday, members of Kesher Israel, a temple in uptown Harrisburg, were confronted with the sight of swastikas on the front of the synagogue. Local and state police, as well as the state attorney general’s office, were summoned to the scene.

“My security antenna went up,” Rabbi Elisha Friedman told our colleagues at The ‘Burg magazine. “People were worried about safety.”

And not without reason. Statistics have shown that anti-Semitic attacks hit their second-highest level ever in 2019. The members of the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh are still healing from the worst act of anti-Semitic violence in American history. And the head of the Philadelphia NAACP is facing growing calls for his ouster after he shared an anti-Semitic meme earlier this month.

” … Rising anti-Semitism is a danger to us all. We have found that, at times of political uncertainty, social unrest or downturns in the economy, anti-Semitic incidents tend to increase. And as anti-Semitism rises, other groups often experience rising hate as well,” Shira Goodman, regional director of the ADL of Philadelphia, told the Capital-Star in May.

(Image via Facebook)

It wasn’t long, however, before the community and other synagogues began rallying around the congregation, The ‘Burg’s Maddie Conley reported.

“An attack on one Jewish institution is an attack on all Jewish institutions, and we are here for you as your neighbors and friends to fight anti-Semitism wherever it exists and to support you at this difficult time,” Rabbi Peter Kessler and Rob Teplitz, the congregation president, of Temple Ohev Sholom in Harrisburg, said in a statement.

Rabbi Arianna Capptauber, of Beth El Temple, the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, told Conley that she personally feels “the sting of the swastika, as it represents the deadly hatred that killed many members of my family. Yet I will not cower in the face of this weaponized symbol, for I know that we are held by a resilient Jewish community and a caring community of allies here in Harrisburg.”

That support reached across faith divides, with the Rev. Russell C. Sullivan Jr., pastor of Pine Street Presbyterian, across Third Street from the Capitol, saying his congregation “[condemned] this criminal act of hatred directed towards our Jewish brothers and sisters. With the people of Kesher Israel Synagogue and the Jewish community, we stand in solidarity and support.”

On Wednesday, more than 150 people joined in a vigil against hate. On his Facebook page, Democratic activist Cole Goodman noted that “We must all, no matter where you’re from, your background, your ethnicity, your age; stand up firmly and loudly against religious discrimination of any kind. That’s what community is truly about.”

This incident also impacted a member of the Capital-Star’s family. Bella Altman, who translates stories for our Estrella-Capital section, attends Kesher Israel with her family. All of us at the Capital-Star stand with her, and all of Harrisburg’s Jewish community, against hate.

The Capital-Star remains committed, through our news coverage, and our opinion pages, to telling these stories and elevating those important voices. Their voices have to be louder than hate. Their voices can drown out hate.

But lawmakers can do their part, too.

package of anti-hate crimes bills, sponsored by Rep. Dan Frankel, a Pittsburgh Democrat whose district includes the Tree of Life Synagogue, and other lawmakers, remains in park in a quartet of House committees. The October 2018 murders at the synagogue were the worst instance of anti-Semitic violence in state history.

There’s still time left in this year’s legislative session for lawmakers to match the soaring rhetoric they used in the House chamber in 2019 to honor to the victims of Tree of Life.

They can pay tribute to the hard work of the Black Lives Matter movement by following up their work on police reform legislation by passing a hate crimes package that makes for a safer Pennsylvania, and sends a clear message that the Commonwealth does not tolerate hate.

The Pennsylvania Capitol building. (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

Our Stuff.
A senior Republican lawmaker in the state House said Tuesday that he doesn’t believe it’s government’s responsibility to keep Pennsylvanians safe during the pandemic, making us wonder what we’re paying him for. Stephen Caruso has the details.

A western Pennsylvania judge who used racial slurs has been charged with violating legal canons of ethicsCassie Miller reports.

A free speech advocate has filed a federal lawsuit challenging state anti-bias rules intended to safeguard LGBTQ Pennsylvanians, our partners at the Philadelphia Gay News report.

On our Commentary Page this morning, here’s my take on why Kamala Harris represents America as it is now. If you’re wondering for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for Trump, opinion regular Fletcher McClellan writes. And our frequent contributors at the Women’s Law Project say it’s long past time for state lawmakers to stop punishing nursing mothers and their babies.

(Photo via pxHere)

While GOP lawmakers in Pennsylvania demand that kids be allowed to play fall sports, officials in New Jersey face an ‘excruciating choice’ as data shows that kids and teens make up a growing share of coronavirus carriers, the Inquirer reports.
In Allegheny County, officials are ‘urging vigilance’ as schools get ready to reopen, the Tribune-Review reports.
PennLive looks at how businesses in State College are getting ready for a football-free fall.
The PIAA has told Gov. Tom Wolf that canceling fall sports won’t reduce coronavirus risk, but will shift it elsewhere.
The Wilkes-Barre NAACP has asked Attorney General Josh Shapiro to investigate the death of Shaheen Mackey, a Black man who died in 2018 while in custody in Luzerne County prison, the Citizens-Voice reports.

Here’s your #Harrisburg Instagram of the Day:


View this post on Instagram


I’m heartbroken to hear that our newsroom won’t be returning to our Allentown office and will continue to work remotely. I first walked through the doors of The Morning Call newsroom as a 21-year-old college intern, inexperienced and unsure of most things in life except knowing that I wanted to be a newspaper journalist. For the majority of a decade, I learned how to do that in this newsroom thanks to amazing editors and reporters who became mentors and friends. ? By physical appearances, the newsroom wasn’t much. If it rained too hard, we had leaks that old storage buckets would catch. If you walked on a certain part of the carpet in between mine and Nicole’s desks, your heel would get stuck in the floor (we fixed this problem with duct tape). If you looked closely at the front, you could still see where a bus backed into our building one morning. ? But that windowless office was beautiful in all the ways a newsroom should be. It was never quiet; someone was always cursing or fighting with some elected official on the phone; a reporter was always printing some large document which meant Ernie, sitting next to the printer, would loudly complain. Reporters were always running back and forth between their desks and an editor’s right before hitting “publish” on a big story – a feeling that is truly one of the best to ever experience. It was exactly what I envisioned a newsroom would be like as a 21-year-old. ? It was so much more than just a place I went to work each day. My friendships with Emily, Laurie, Ryan and so many others were made in that newsroom over shared eye rolls and snarky comments. We celebrated each other’s successes, complained about the long hours over drinks and ate way too many cupcakes. People outside The Morning Call were shocked when I said that a quarter of the guests at my wedding were co-workers. ? Most importantly for me, it was where my husband and I met, as young 20-somethings who always found excuses to walk by each other’s desks. I had envisioned that special moment when our baby would first visit that newsroom. ? I’ll end this sappy, hormonal post now, but please remember to support your local news.

A post shared by Jackie Palochko (@jpalochko) on

Despite a legal challenge, Philly Mayor Jim Kenney’s office says it still plans to remove a statue of Christopher Columbus from South Philadelphia. Because. He. Didn’t. Discover. America. (via WHYY-FM).
A state House candidate, and Joe Biden surrogate, in Berks County has apologized for past racist and misogynist tweets, the PA Post reports.
Joe Biden leads Donald Trump 52-43 percent in Pennsylvania in a new Emerson College poll, PoliticsPA reports.
Even as farmers struggle during the pandemic, they’re working with equally overwhelmed food banks to help keep them going, reports.
Joe Biden raised $26 million the day after he named Kamala Harris as his veep pick, Politico reports.

What Goes On.
10 a.m, G50 Irvis:
 House Democratic Policy Committee

Gov. Tom Wolf
 holds a 1 p.m. newser at the York County YMCA to release the results of his Health Disparity Task Force.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
State Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-Luzerne, holds a 7:30 a.m. golf tournament at Edgewood Country Club in Drums, Pa. Admission runs $100 to $2,500.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to longtime Friend O’the BlogEllen Ross, at the Pennsylvania Department of Health, who celebrates today. Congratulations and enjoy the day.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s a BritPop classic from Cast, it’s ‘Walkaway.’

Thursday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
Carolina lost to Boston 4-3 in OT of Game 1 of their delayed Eastern Conference playoff series. Today’s a new day.

And now you’re up to date.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.